My motto for this weekend: “Drink more orange juice.” Thankfully, it’s twenty degrees in Chicago and being sick is the perfect excuse not to leave the apartment. Being sick at home is one thing, but being sick on vacation is the worst.
The last time I was sick was during my trip to Dubai, Georgia, and Israel. My friend Krista and I stupidly forgot a vital travel lesson from every lousy road trip movie “NEVER EAT GAS STATION FOOD.” Well, you can imagine what happened next. Lucky for us our food poisoning did not hit until we were back at our hotel and ready for bed. Food poisoning comes in waves kind of like grief. First, you are in denial - I remember Krista asking if I felt sick. We both brushed it off. Next comes the shock. When we realized we were sick, we were so confused. Both of us repeatedly asked “how is this possible’? After shock comes anger. I mean how stupid can you be to eat questionable gas station food (in our case bread with some sort of cheese filling I still cringe just thinking of it)? Finally, we accepted the situation, got some sleep, rescheduled our flight to Israel, and took it as an opportunity to spend a little more time exploring Tbilisi.
What I learned from this whole experience is that maybe I should start taking to heart some advice from my mom, Angie. Angie works as a dietitian, is always over-prepared, and spends way too much of her time reading about food illnesses related to travel (parasites are currently her favorite topic). So, without further ado, here are some of the lessons I have acquired:
Be Prepared for your Flight
Growing up, I was always embarrassed by Angie’s paranoia on planes. She would pull travel size Lysol wipes out of her carry on and wipe down the tray, seat, and armrests. Then she would put on one of those medical face masks (so embarrassing).
Have you ever sat on a flight next to someone that’s coughing and not covering their mouth? Well, that was me on Monday, and now I’m sitting here on my couch sneezing wishing I had followed Angie’s routine.
Never Leave Home Without Emergen-C
Ok, so one good “illness prevention” routine I always follow is never leaving home without Emergen-C. I religiously take Emergen-C after a long flight and throughout a trip to keep from getting sick.
The first mistake Krista and I made was that we didn't pack snacks. Now not to sound like my mom, but for any long car, ride snacks are essential. On most trips, I pack kind bars in my backpack just in case I run into horrible plane food or don’t have a chance to snag a snack between flights when I have a layover. If you are taking a road trip or tour, take the five minutes to pick up packaged food from a local convenience store. Whatever you do, don't order cheese bread at a gas station.
Take Grape Seed Extract
As I’m writing this, I just placed an amazon prime order for more of this miracle supplement. Since I started traveling Angie always lectured me on taking grape seed extract. She has patients that are missionaries that begin taking this supplement a couple of weeks before making a trip to somewhere with higher risks of contaminated food or water. Grape seed extract may not entirely prevent you from getting sick, but it will help you fight off/recover from illness faster.
One of the most common related travel illnesses is self-induced: hangovers. Trust me; no one wants to spend a morning in a foreign country desperately seeking out their hangover cure of choice. Do yourself a favor and stock up on the Pedialyte powder packs. They’re easy to pack and will save you the effort of searching for Coca-Cola and Carr's crackers at 8:30 AM in Berlin.
My most recent travel-related illness may be making me paranoid, but the few steps it takes to minimize your chances of getting sick are well worth the effort. And remember, if you ever are questioning if you should eat that gas station food - just don’t do it.